This week’s episode gave us further insight into Don’s life after his capitulation at the end of season six. Don is at a professional nadir. In the past, no matter how chaotic his life, Don was King at the office.
Don & Sally
In the opening sequence of this episode, we see him schlepping around the house eating crackers, getting dressed up waiting for Dawn to come over and report on news from the office. In the past he has been low (even tormented), but he has never seemed so vulnerable with no job, no wife, struggling to fill his days and remain relevant. The next day as he goes for a business lunch and we gauge the while there are rumours circling about Don’s departure from SC&P, his professional currency still remains high.
But the real focus of the episode was re-engaging us with the state of Don and Sally’s relationship after her discovery of his affair with Mrs Rosen in season six. After she wags school for a few hours in Manhattan with her friends, Sally makes an impromptu appearance at SC&P, to find … Lou Avery in her father’s office. (Don for his part has told no one about his imposed sabbatical)
Bamboozled, she returns to Don’s apartment. There is a series of pained, awkward conversations between them before they finally confront one another. Sally has grown wise to Don’s deceptions and is desperate for him to be honest. Eventually he comes clean about his office meltdown and it is implied he has told her the whole truth about his own upbringing and past.
Improbably the episode moved to Don and Sally confiding their secrets to one another, where it was alluded to that all of their chicanery had been to avoid thinking about death. Don perhaps recognising himself in Sally (the man has been death-haunted for the entire seven seasons) is incredulous at her attempts to trivialise the death of her roommate’s mother and the two have possibly their most mature conversation in the show’s history.
Back at the Office
At SC&P the changes are coming thick and fast. Here’s a summary of developments this week.
Peggy has become something of a dragon lady to the other people around the office and continues to be at a loose end after her break up with Ted Chaough. Continuing on from last week, she is going through a ‘be careful what you wish for’ phase – her professional success has brought her loneliness and isolation. She really is turning into the new Don – but without all the sex & glamour.
Joan continues to wrangle all the office melodrama before unexpectedly getting promoted into accounts executive by Cutler. Dawn was then promoted to Joan’s role as personnel manager. When Dawn and Shirley were having coffee complaining about their bosses it occurred to me that they were becoming the new Peggy and Joan. (Whether this means Ginsberg is the new Kinsey is difficult to workout at this stage).
It was also clear all of the old guard were starting to look pre-historic. Roger is fighting a continual battle against irrelevance around the office, as his authority continues to wane. Bert Cooper complaining to Joan ‘while on his way to the club’ that they could not have a black secretary at the front of the office was telling – Yikes!
Out in California, Pete has been given a new lease on life, but still struggles with a lack of authority at SC&P. This week we saw his continued frustration at a lack of professional regard from his fellow partners. His very amorous pep talk with his free spirit real estate agent girlfriend got me wondering if his thwarted ambition will mutate into some kind of Zen New Age acceptance in California. God help us.
-The SC&P merger from last season appears to be uneasy. Cutler’s message to Roger in the elevator ‘I’d hate for us to be adversaries’ was intense. Could the firm be split apart before the end of the season?
– Another week, another ’90’s TV cameo – David James Elliot from ‘JAG’ appearing as Don’s long time associate in a very loud pink shirt.
– In the Mad Men tradition of random re-appearances, Jim Hobart (the conniving executive who tried to lure Don by making Betty a model in season one) makes professional overtures to Don to come and work at McCann-Erikson.
– Roger’s conversation with Lou Avery where he didn’t ‘get’ Roger’s glibness was classic.
‘He thought I was Jewish, I guess it was the hat,’
‘The strangest things always happen to you.”
– Don toying with Sally’s idea of him as a con man was great – deadpanning that they run out on the cheque.
– Dawn and Joan giving it Lou Avery for insulting her. How times have changed!